Monday, August 16, 2010

Metro's Caulfield - Camberwell shuttle: the bigger picture

Today's Herald Sun carries an article about a proposal from Metro Trains for a north-south bus route between Caulfield and Camberwell.

Metro's motivation may well be to relieve loading on two of Melbourne's busiest rail corridors. Nevertheless from a total network perspective it has a lot going for it, but only if planned in conjunction with existing nearby routes, which have just been reviewed.


View Larger Map

Also see Metlink local area map for local network

Notes about the area and transport services

- Approximately 10km from Melbourne CBD.
- Major universities adjacent to Caulfield (Monash) and Glenferrie (Swinburne) stations.
- A high international student population (who are heavy users of public transport - day and night).
- A major activity centre at Camberwell. Caulfield has similar potential if its underutilised racecourse is redeveloped.
- Both Caulfield and Camberwell are major junctions on Melbourne's busiest railway lines. All passing trains stop at these stations. Trains run approximately every 3 minutes during weekday peak, 7.5 to 15 minutes during off-peak and 15 to 30 minutes evening.
- No strong north-south public transport links for the six kilometre stretch between Glenferrie Rd and Warrigal Rd in the area south of the Glen Waverley railway (trains and trams are all east-west). In contrast the suburbs to the east (around Warrigal, Blackburn and Springvale Roads) have partial or full north-south SmartBus routes that are amongst Melbourne's busiest.

Existing services

Current options for travel between Caulfield and Glenferrie/Camberwell include:

- Train via a transfer at Richmond. Involves some backtracking but may be faster than the direct options that involve tram or infrequent bus.
- Route 72 tram between Toorak, Gardiner and Camberwell. Also involves some backtracking if coming from Caulfield as the line turns west instead of continuing south. Only a minority of daytime trains on the Caulfield group stop at Toorak, forcing an extra transfer at Caulfield.
- Route 16 tram between Malvern, Kooyong and Glenferrie. Provides a direct link to Swinburne University but can be slow. Not all trains stop at Malvern.
- Route 624 bus between Caulfield, Tooronga and Auburn. Serves the quieter station in between Glenferrie and Camberwell which is not served by all trains. The route is direct but its 30 minute frequency is less attractive than train or tram.


A Caulfield - Camberwell bus route that is more attractive than existing options could make a lot of sense. It would fill a major gap and be at least as well used as portions of some SmartBus routes.

Strong circumfrencial bus links can ensure that those who don't need to enter the CBD are not forced to do so. This frees up space for those who must (eg instead of staying on until Richmond, passengers at Caulfield may opt to change to a bus to Swinburne or Camberwell instead). And it's good economics too; the marginal costs of carrying passengers increase in congested areas, so frequent cross-suburban buses could pay for themselves in rail infrastructure not needed, and attract patronage in their own right.

My only proviso is that if implemented the route would not become an example of grafted-on planning which is inefficient and detracts from the capacity to fund local bus review recommendations. A way to avoid this is not to evaluate the proposal in isolation, but to considering adjacent existing bus routes (eg 624), especially if these could be modified to more economically form the new service.


Dave said...

Thanks Peter - always value your posts.

Not sure on modifying the 624 - Auburn Rd is a decent distance from Burke Rd, and the 624 fills the gap between Glenferrie/Burke.
A potential longterm solution is the mooted 72 tram split/extension south, such that Malvern Rd terminates the city service, and the Burke Rd route simply runs up and down that road. Add tram priority to keep the speed up and you may get reasonable travel times.
However, I'm not sure that would ever compete properly against an express (bus) service, stopping only at the stations. Having recently enjoyed such a service in Canberra (Redex 727) I can say that the added speed is valued (albeit a portion of the express 'gain' is psychological - but perceptions matter!)
As such, a dedicated, branded bus would probably be the best fit here - show it on the rail map even, if it matches the rail frequencies and is operated by Metro. Given Burke & Tooronga Rd traffic, you still want to try and give priority measures if you could. If it ran Burke->Toorak Rd, then via Tooronga, and you gave tram/bus priority on the shared stretch, you'd give 2 PT modes benefit for the works cost of one.

Peter Parker said...

Thanks Dave,

I agree the 72 extension (along with other small ones to the nearest station) would 'complete the network' and are good long-term.

Yesterday's post didn't adequately discuss travel time - 624 as it currently stands is 15 min off-peak (acceptable) and 32 min peak (too much) - so clearly priority work is needed here as you point out.

Still, the 'hole' in N-S routes between Glenferrie Rd and Warrigal Rd is so great that I'd much rather see something done with the 624 than nothing at all.

Probably worth a part II to this post given that in the last couple of years there have been several short bus corridors (all serving universities) that have gained either new routes or more frequent service.